Interview: Lisa Edelstein from House

We had the pleasure of talking with Lisa Edelstein from House about the upcoming episode of House centering on Cuddy, the love triangle between Cuddy, Lucas, and House, and how she brings herself into her role.

I’m just wondering if you think Cuddy is the “risotto” of all roles, in that it leaves you totally satisfied.

Lisa Edelstein: Definitely for now. I’m a bit fickle. So, I think a good seven years of satisfaction will lead me to the next phase.

In this episode in which we’re going to see things through your eyes, will we also be seeing things through the eyes of the former queen of downtown?

Lisa Edelstein: No. Cuddy is definitely not the queen of downtown. That’s reserved only for me.

Would your friends be surprised from your old New York days how you’ve evolved into such an established role?

Lisa Edelstein: I think, it’s nice. It was a very special group of people, way back when, of a lot of great talent and not a lot of commercial value. So, it’s nice when anybody you know has a good turn in life, and I really enjoy seeing my friends from those days. They’re always really supportive and excited.

Did that have any impact on the way you approached this role, those old days when you were the queen of society?

Lisa Edelstein: You’re giving me a lot more credit than I actually deserve, but not really. It doesn’t really apply to this character. It certainly is a part of the tapestry of my life. But, Cuddy is a much more controlled, serious, wonder woman. She cannot be as playful.

What do you hope that people glean from this episode, aside from Cuddy has a lot on her plate on any given day? What do you hope their take away is as far as your character that they might not have picked up on over the past years?

Lisa Edelstein: Well, there’s a lot of things I like about the episode in addition to the fact that you get a real glimpse into what it means to run a hospital. Because sometimes you see complaints that people don’t think that Cuddy’s very good at her job. I don’t really think they know what her job is. Now you get a clearer view of that.

I like the difference between her relationship with Lucas and her relationship with House. I think on one hand you see this kind of uncomplicated ease with this guy who’s just showing up. He shows up. He actually does his best and shows up and wants to be there versus the guy that she had this long, deep, fascinating, back-and-forth with that she can’t seem to steer clear of and what he actually means in her world, how he affects her world. So, I think there’s a lot of levels to it.

The episode hints at the occasional disconnect with Lucas. Do you think if she does end up bailing on that romance it’ll be to go to House or just to not be with Lucas?

Lisa Edelstein: I don’t know, because they don’t tell me. So, I would hate to guess. But, I that think sometimes you just want to be in the relationship that looks good on paper and that is the relationship you think you’re supposed to be in. But, I’m not sure that that really works.

So, when and if that doesn’t work, I guess what you would do is really give it a shot with the thing that excites you most. But that’s going to sound like a spoiler, and it actually isn’t because I haven’t the faintest idea what’s happening.

One of my favorite moments in the “Wilson” episode earlier this year was the scene where Wilson was doing something completely, unrelated to anything that involved House. It really did impress on me that, “Wow! Wilson really does have a life and career that doesn’t involve House.” How interesting to see that, and again, with you, you get to have those moments, too. Is that really cool and fun and interesting for you?

Lisa Edelstein: I think so. I hope the audience thinks so, because again, it is really nice to see, to fill in the blanks, and to make the picture more complete. So that you know when House is causing problems for Cuddy, what the rest of the things on Cuddy’s plate are. When they interrupt something in the hallway to have a debate about a case that has nothing to do with what she’s doing and the rest of her day, how she has to focus and deal with it and resolve it and move on. I mean, I just think it is fun to see that. It is fun to fill in the blanks.

You mentioned before that one of the ways you were unlike Cuddy was the clothes, that Cuddy wears clothes that you can’t run in, and that that would cramp your style. After a few more years of playing her, do you think that maybe there’s a little bit of a free spirit kind of hidden away from everybody, just because she’s the boss?

Lisa Edelstein: Well, I don’t think she has time to be the free spirit that she might be. I think her days are completely filled. She has to be up at 4:30 in the morning and she works until 9:00 at night. She is a real go-getter with an enormous amount of energy, doing an enormous amount everyday for a lot of people. That kind of responsibility fills up every inch of your world.

So, a lot of fans have expressed their, I guess, anger or just dislike about the Cuddy-Lucas relationship? What do you think it is that Cuddy sees in Lucas that no one else can?

Lisa Edelstein: I think he shows up. I think he helps her with her life. He’s uncomplicated, very loyal, and has sex with her. I think that those things mean a lot to somebody who’s got a world like hers, which can be very overwhelming. The question remains, “Is that enough?”

But I think for right now, it’s something she really needed to explore having because she’s been alone for a while, a long time and kind of chasing after a House that was completely unavailable. So, this season, suddenly he turns around and announces he’s available, but it’s years that this has been going on. It’s not so easy.

So, you’ve played this character for a while now. How do you think Cuddy’s changed over the years?

Lisa Edelstein: Well, I don’t think characters change. I think they become more revealed. I don’t think you really can change a character on a show. David Shore was talking about this, as well, a while back, because if you change the character, then the dynamic changes.

I think what happen is in the first season of any episode, as the audience, you’re presented with a vague picture of these people. You, as an audience member, project onto them your idea of who they are and how they fit. As the years go by and the writers get to write more deeply about each individual, they just expose themselves little by little. I don’t mean that in a nude way. Although, actually I do because that’s pretty much what happened with my character. Every season, I become more and more disrobed.

What was it like having Jennifer Morrison back on the set?

Lisa Edelstein: Lovely. Jennifer is a great girl, wonderful to be around and smart and funny and it was great.

Any kind of fun, behind-the-scenes things you can share?

Lisa Edelstein: Not really. We don’t have that kind of set. We work really hard and then have witty banter.

I know you don’t know about what’s coming up ahead, but do you think that Cuddy would have settled, well, if settle’s the right word, for the guy she’s with right now if she hadn’t had the child?

Lisa Edelstein: I think that having a child definitely changed her attitude about relationships, absolutely. I think him being in her life is really directly related to that. She really needs somebody she can rely on.

I don’t think anyone can really fully prepare for having a child. I don’t think there’s any way of preparing for what that means to your world. This is a woman who already had a really full world. She needs reliable people in her life.

How do you think season six is shaping up without Jennifer Morrison as Cameron?

Lisa Edelstein: Well, she’s been in season six. It’s always strange to be missing a character that has been around for a long time. So, it’s really hard to answer that question. However, I love our writers and I love what they’re doing. Of course, we miss her and she was recently back. That was tons of fun. I don’t really know what else to say.

Did the atmosphere on set change when she left?

Lisa Edelstein: Not really. We don’t all work together all the time. So, for example, most of my scenes are with Hugh or Robert. I don’t have a lot of scenes with the team. I think maybe for them they could feel the difference more. Jennifer and I rarely had scenes by ourselves together, even in the five years we were both around at the same time. So if we shoot ten days and I’m there three out of those ten days, I see only whoever I’m in the scene with.

What was it like in an episode focused on Cuddy?

Lisa Edelstein: It was really exciting. It was exciting because I’ve been working with these people for a very long time and to be given that kind of opportunity was really special. They sent me the script weeks earlier than usual, where I could have notes about dialog, notes about story line; make script suggestions, which is not normal for our process at House. Even during filming, I just felt like I had a lot more power in terms of interacting with the writer and director. I really loved it. Plus, I was there 16 hours a day, which is a lot of hard work. But, it’s really fun to set the pace and the tone of the stage, to be given that opportunity, especially with people that I’ve known for quite some time.

House and Cuddy seem to begin to repair their relationship just a little bit, in “5 to 9”. Really for the first time, I think, since almost from the beginning of the season. Is that going to continue to evolve?

Lisa Edelstein: Again, they really don’t tell me what the goal is. But I did really like that and I liked the way it looked next to her relationship with Lucas because there is something very special between House and Cuddy that also is historical and deeply complicated, but has a nice weight to it, which is a very confusing thing to have in your life when you’re trying to do what you think is the right thing on paper.

Do you have any acting plans beyond House? Or, would you like to write or direct an episode like Hugh Laurie has done?

Lisa Edelstein: No, I don’t think I’m going to write or direct an episode. Writing an episode would be an enormous challenge because they work about six months on these cases in trying to find diseases that can be confused for other things, yet you can tell a story with that’s interesting. I mean, it’s a very complicated process. Watching Hugh do the directing, it actually was really a little more inspiring, because I hadn’t really thought about it before. Ultimately, I’m just thinking of things that will interest me when House is finally done, which I don’t even know when that is, and in the meantime, just trying to see as much of the world as I possibly can.

Besides seeing the script so early, what surprised you most about this episode when you first read it?

Lisa Edelstein: What surprised me most? That I was in every scene. It never happened to me before on the show. I kind of had an idea of what was happening, so it didn’t take me totally by surprise. They gave me a heads-up. I just didn’t know how they were going to do it.

And you said that you took the opportunity to suggest some script changes. What change are you most proud of?

Lisa Edelstein: I don’t know. If I tell you that, then you’ll know what the scene looked like before and it’ll spoil scenes. It was some relationship stuff on both sides, really, Lucas stuff and House stuff. Some were changes and some were just tone, like talking about tone and being able to participate in that process and learn what it is that David had in mind and what he was trying to say. What Tommy had in mind, what he was trying to say. Just kind of have more involvement in their process in allowing my sense of things to have some power, too.

During the filming process during this episode, did you ever think, “Wow! I can relate to Dr. Cuddy in this episode.” Like her life is so busy and it’s such a balancing act?

Lisa Edelstein: Well, absolutely; she’s trying to do everything. I’m just glad there is an episode that shows how much it is she actually has to do, how much is on her plate. Representing single moms, and single working moms and what they do is always nice because they’re unsung heroines.

So, I saw the episode, and I noticed that Cuddy practices yoga, which I believe you do as well.

Lisa Edelstein: Yes.

Were there any other attributes about yourself that you were able to transfer to your character in this episode?

Lisa Edelstein: Attributes about myself, of course, I play Cuddy, so she is a part of me; but she’s much more serious and has much more on her plate and is responsible for many more people than I actually am. I think that seeing her at home, seeing her with Lucas, seeing her be a little bit sexual, those are fun sides of Cuddy that you don’t normally get to see. But, yeah, I think she’s too busy to be much more than that.

So, given that House’s pessimistic attitude toward life is such a key element of the show, do you think that the show would still be able to have the same effect if your character and House were in a happy relationship?

Lisa Edelstein: Well, I don’t think just because people are in a relationship that they’re happy. I don’t think relationships necessarily make people happy. You just are happy or you’re not happy. So, I think if they were ever to get together, there would be no loss in the misery level.

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